The big military buzzword from the Korean War (and onward) was “force multiplier.” It means that accurate US artillery and air strikes (those are the mulitpliers) make smaller numbers of US troops much more effective (that’s the force part) than much larger numbers of enemy troops.
Force multiplication is why 500,000 Coalition troops were able to rout 1.5 million Iraqi troops in 1991. Historically, a 3:1 advantage was considered necessary to guarantee victory. We did it then outnumbered 1:3. So what about now, with more numerous — and much more accurate — smart bombs?
In the 1991 Gulf War (what are we going to call this next one, anyway? Gulf War II? The Iraq War? Suggestions, please) a US Navy aircraft carrier was able to hit about 170 targets a day. Now that the Navy is finally on board with precision munitions (they had hardly any in ’91), each carrier’s planes can hit 600 targets a day — and often with fewer warplanes on board, due to cutbacks.
So, we could send a third as many carriers to the Gulf this time, and still hit more targets each day. Or send the same number and hit more than three times as many. And still have plenty of force projection left to, say, keep a couple carriers stationed near North Korea. You know, just as a little reminder to Kim Jong.
But what does all this air power force multiplication mean in actual practice? What will it look like? StrategyPage has some ideas:
Picture hundreds of bombers (large and small) flying into Iraq carrying several thousand of pre-programmed smart bombs. While heavy bombers can carry up to two dozen 2000 pound JDAMs, there are now smaller JDAMs available as well. This enables the same aircraft to carry more bombs. Many targets don’t require a 2000 bomb, and smaller aircraft (like F-16s, F-18s and F-15s) can carry six to a dozen 500 pound JDAMs. This makes it possible for, say, 200 bombers (from F-16s to B-52s) to carry nearly 2000 JDAMs for a single simultaneous strike. Several hundred cruise missiles launched from ships and subs can be added to this attack.
At a prearranged time, all the bombs are released so that they all hit their targets at about the same time. Suddenly, everyone in the Iraqi armed forces is under attack. It’s long been known that firepower, be it artillery or bombs, is a lot more effective if the target doesn’t know it’s coming. Once the first bomb hits, and the word gets around, the other enemy troops head for cover and the damage done is much less. For example, the Iraqis plan to move a lot of their military equipment and vehicles to residential neighborhoods once the bombing campaign begins. But if there is one big attack, there’s won